How well do training programmes prepare conservation staff for the growing threats to protected areas in Eastern and Southern Africa? Are they equipped with the skills to engage other stakeholders and make the case for conservation in such a way that the biodiversity and the people of the region both win?
As part of the long-term BIOPAMA (Biodiversity and Protected Areas Management) capacity building initiatives for this region, representatives of both 'the clients' (the protected areas agencies) and the 'service providers' (the training institutions) were invited to a dialogue on the issue of improving stakeholder engagement skills for protected areas management.
Addressing land and resource use conflicts in and around protected areas is the focus of the BIOPAMA capacity building action plan for Eastern and Southern Africa, with particular emphasis on working with rapidly developing sectors such as agriculture, extractive industries, and fisheries.
Engagement of these different sectors requires the involvement of all stakeholders to ensure the success of integrated sustainable planning at the land and seascape scales. Pressure from the various activities of different sectors is mounting at the interface of protected areas and often protected areas staff have limited capacity to deal with such new challenges. To overcome this, BIOPAMA is implementing long- and short-term capacity-building interventions.
The workshop, aimed at enhancing and equipping higher education institutions in the region to teach stakeholder engagement to protected areas managers, students and related careers, was held 19-21 August in Johannesburg, South Africa. It was attended by 25 participants drawn from seven higher education Institutions and five protected area agencies from Seychelles, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, and provided a basis for curriculum development for their respective institutions.
The workshop was designed to look at the gaps between ‘offer and demand’ in terms of stakeholder engagement skills for protected area management, introduction of new skills, including the Mutual Gains Approach (MGA) into the curricula, and networking and exchange between the training institutions.
Training institutions are clearly trying to provide training that is valuable and responds to the needs at the site level. Training of ‘soft skills’ are not yet well represented in the curricula but all participating institutions showed interest in incorporating these specific skills into their training in some way.
The presentation of the Mutual Gains Approach (MGA) and exercises were welcomed by both the professional and the practical fields. As well as a decision to introduce the MGA into the training institutions’ curricula, one of the major outcomes was agreement to train the trainers who will present this approach in the respective institutions.
In response, BIOPAMA will host a new workshop early in 2015 to train these trainers on teaching the Mutual Gains Approach within their curricula and programmes. The networking opportunities of this workshop resulted in successful exchanges between the different training institutions across the region to build the curricula for protected areas and resource management, and share experience and best practices.
As part of the short-term interventions in the framework of the Capacity Building Plan for Eastern and Southern Africa, the BIOPAMA programme is also using integrated training as part of stakeholder dialogues. This training aims to equip dialogue participants (in particular protected area management staff) with enhanced negotiation skills to enable improved relationships with the other sectors, in addition to the technical skills they already possess.
BIOPAMA has already held several dialogues with representatives from some of the sectors identified as affecting protected areas and is planning to hold more in order to gain insights into their perspectives and concerns. Such dialogues will also help to determine the appropriate capacity building interventions that can enhance effective land use planning, improve safeguards, and optimise the role of protected areas within the socio-economic landscapes.